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WCCUSD resident pushes for city reps on board

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 7:32 pm in Education, West Contra Costa school district.

Giorgio Cosentino, a West Contra Costa school district resident and former teacher, thinks the district should elect trustees from each city instead of electing all trustees citywide. Here’s a copy of an email he sent to trustees about that today:

“Dear WCCUSD school board,

As a result of the Measure K fallout, I have been giving much thought to Mr. Ramsey’s comments about Hercules and Pinole seceding from the district. There was no one to defend Hercules and Pinole, that we had no one advocating for us or explaining our position. We had no voice. I believe the secession option is not even a choice as the County BoE had ruled previously against it when Hercules sought secession. So let’s address the cause of the problem. Perhaps Hercules and Pinole feel that they have no voice.

We can change that. I believe it is time to do away with the at-large elections. It is time for each city to have a representative on the WCCUSD board. El Sobrante, Hercules, Pinole, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Kensington, and Richmond should each have a member on the WCCUSD board. This will result in more buy-in. Currently, there are 3 board members from El Cerrito and one each from San Pablo and Richmond.

In fact, Education Week just published the following article last week, so my thoughts are on the same wavelength as the rest of the nation.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/02/27/22schoolboards_ep.h32.html

I shall submit a letter to the media for the purpose of seeking to establish an exploratory committee to review this option in greater detail. If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to share. Thanks.

Respectfully,
Giorgio Cosentino, Hercules”

Former WCCUSD trustee Antonio Medrano had also suggested this idea without success. This is an idea that could be tried in Mt. Diablo as well, perhaps with trustees from Bay Point-Pittsburg, Clayton, Concord, Martinez-Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.

The Contra Costa County Board of Education elects representatives in this way, from different geographic areas called “wards.”

Do you think it makes sense for large K-12 districts such as MDUSD and WCCUSD to elect trustees according to geographic location instead of districtwide?

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  • Giorgio C.

    Theresa,

    In recent days, I have also communicated to the board my concerns that Hercules and Pinole might not be treated fairly with respect to decisions regarding our schools, including those pertaining to staffing. This year, all principals in Hercules were removed, promoted or relocated, all in one fell swoop.

    An experienced, competent principal was promoted to the district office and was replaced with someone who never held the title of Principal before. Good for the district, but not for Hercules. How do I know what is fair as so many of the staffing decisions are made behind closed doors.

    I informed Mr. Ramsey that he should have been censured by the board for the following comments:

    “They voted just enough to kill it” and “The bigger issue is: Is it time for Hercules and Pinole to form their own district?” he said. “I believe it’s time to have that conversation.” His comments were reported here.
    http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20797383/dublin-voters-give-thumbs-up-property-tax-schools

    Another Hercules citizen spoke before the board on Sept 5th, after students at a Hercules elementary school were relocated to another school, with less than 24 hours notice. He expressed concerns of “retaliation.” The irony is that this citizen helped man the phones in support of Measure K.

    My call for abolishing the general election process is a corrective action to address the discriminatory treatment that Hercules and Pinole received from the most powerful man in the district, all as a result of exercising our right to vote. It is an action for the purpose of ensuring that Hercules and Pinole will be treated fairly. I’ve been trying to trust him and the district, but every time I see something of concern, I can’t shake the feeling that we might be getting the short end of the stick because the district was never able to pass the parcel tax INCREASE, only the extension, as a result of our lack of support.

    Again, how would I know? In fairness to Mr. Ramsey, I understand his frustration regarding the failed tax measure, but he should have come to Hercules and Pinole and asked what does the WCCUSD need to do to win the additional support needed. He did at a later date, but the damage was done. His initial reaction is a cause for concern. We are the “cities who do not embrace funding measures.”

    With a representative from my city seated on the board, I would sleep easier at night knowing that my daughter will not be the victim of any unfair treatment. Make sense?

  • Giorgio C.

    Mr. Ramsey and the WCCUSD can’t have it both ways. If you are going to blame a city for anything, then you better give that city representation as a means to defend itself.

  • Michael Langley

    Although dividing a district into wards is a worthy idea, the concept of each city as a ward runs into the problem of proportionality. For MDUSD to do so would have to look at the population of concord compared to the partial population of some of the other cities. One man, one vote is a basic tenet of democracy. Concord has about 3/5ths of the district population, so they would be entitled to 3 of the 5 seats. The portions of Walnut Creek and Martinez in the district are well below the number sufficient to qualify for a single board member.

  • Giorgio C.

    I understand the issue of proportionality, but this same issue is why each city should have its own representative. Richmond has a population of 105,000 with the other cities having populations of approximately 25,000.

    Numerical proportionality fails to address the unique issues relevant to the city unit. Each city has its own financial situation, including city taxes for addressing needs unique to the city. In the case of Hercules, this city was hit with a financial crisis as a result of possible fraud and mismanagement by the city government.

    The issue of representation came under the microscope because Hercules did not support a tax. Hercules had just voted for two taxes for the purpose of preventing bankruptcy of our city.

    It should be noted that for the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, each city council appoints ONE voting representative to the committee. The WCCUSD CBOC also has one CBOC member appointed by each board member. I believe the board also votes for each legally required CBOC position.

    For parcel taxes, there is no formal oversight committee, although the Community Budget Advisory Committee is advertised in the parcel tax ballot language as being a vehicle for such oversight. To be on the CBAC, one must be appointed by the board.